Cat Update

We’ve had a few people asking about how our newest crew member is settling in, so I thought I’d write an update. Thea’s been on board for nearly three months now, and she is settling in well.

She and Lyra have one end of the boat each, with Thea’s territory being the bedroom and bathroom, and Lyra’s being the living room. We’ve seen various wars played out in miniature: first, it was like the Battle of the Somme, with the kitchen being no-man’s-land and neither venturing behind enemy lines. Then was saw the Vietnam war, with Thea being the Vietcong, occasionally popping up in Lyra’s territory and being firmly quashed (but only when she was spotted!). Now, boundaries are beginning to blur, and we have more of an Afghan Soviet/Taliban situation with Lyra making advances into the bathroom as well as Thea continuing to pop up and cause mischief in the living room while Lyra’s asleep or not taking notice. The closest the two have got to peace is when Thea sits under the armchair in the living room (her safe place, especially when the engine is on) and Lyra sits on top, unaware of the fluffy interloper below!

2014-05-04 20.08.01-1

The warmer weather means that Lyra is spending more time outside, allowing Thea to explore the boat while she’s out, so we’re hoping that their scents will be getting more mixed and that they will slowly get more relaxed with each other. We still have a few fights (mostly hissing and the occasional thwack from Lyra rather than out-and-out bloodshed and warfare) but I think both are for the most part happy and we are seeing gradual improvements. Thea has yet to venture outside despite encouragements, except for 30second midnight excursion when all was quiet on the Common, but she’s showing more and more interest in the world outside the window. Thea’s very playful and naughty – all cat treats have to be carefully hidden to avoid being woken up in the night by rustlings as she finds her way into a drawer left partially open with treats inside. She’s also proving to be an incredibly non-fussy eater, enjoying everything from oatcakes, to lettuce, tomato and mushrooms! At the moment they are still eating out of sight of each other and with Lyra’s bowl being beyond Thea’s normal advances into her territory, as Lyra tends to leave part of her food for later, which Thea would take advantage of if she came that far! We’re also feeding Lyra a new “Light” catfood as she had put on a fair bit of weight over the winter. We think it’s having an effect, but that may also be down to the warmer weather encouraging her to go outside and exercise more! Anyway that’s enough rambling about the cats, hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

2014-04-17 19.37.31 2014-04-18 12.12.54 2014-04-18 17.17.15 2014-04-29 20.05.08 2014-05-03 11.09.08

Categories: Lyra, Thea | 1 Comment

Back in Town

Fed up of the commute from the admittedly lovely Waterbeach moorings, we came back into town last night. I met James at Baits Bite lock, having cycled out there after work. I popped into the Conservancy office to pick up a new EA key (we have only one now as we gave one away with the Duck and wanted a spare), and was nabbed to sign and fill in a form for the river manager. She did, however, provide tea and ginger nuts in return – there are some perks to being a Conservator!

We moored up in time to go rowing and coxing, but decided on a whim to move to a slightly different spot on the Common – with the Fair in town everyone left, so that on our return we had our pick of  most of the Common. The way our mooring works, we don’t have an allotted spot, just a licence to moor anywhere on the City’s riverside Commons. We are next to one of the set of concrete steps, always a bonus, aren’t under any trees, and only shaded by a little one for some of the day. Only a few hundred meters from where we were before the fair, but a different view from the window, always nice. Lyra seems to like it here too.


Steerer’s eye view – a lot of boat!

2013-06-26 09.09.51

Spot the cat!

Categories: Daily Life, Lyra | Leave a comment


Moving to a new boat has meant that Lyra’s collar tag was no longer up to date, so I had a new one made for her. While I was at it, I found, Kitty Collars, a site which personalises collars too. So Lyra now has a fetching yellow collar with ‘NARROWBOAT WILLOW’* written on it as well as my number. Hopefully this will make it very clear that she’s a boat cat not a stray lost by the river. (We did once get a call saying  “we’ve found your cat, she’s by the river!”) I could have written it in pen on some elastic, but Lyra doesn’t tend to lose collars and this one was not too expensive. Plus it’s got a safety catch in case she gets caught anywhere.

*I know it should be ‘narrow boat’ not ‘narrowboat’, because Willow is historic, but there weren’t enough characters so I had to sacrifice historical accuracy to make sure that the important bits fitted!



2013-06-12 09.25.48

Categories: Lyra | 2 Comments

Lyra’s First Willow Trip

On Sunday we headed out to the GOBA moorings near Waterbeach, for a little gathering to celebrate Jackie Pippin’s birthday. It was our first ‘pleasure cruise’ on Willow – all movements so far have been because we needed to be somewhere. So it was really nice to get out of town just for the fun of it.  There were lots of rowers about as there was a race about to begin but we made it past without incident.

It was also Lyra’s first proper cruise on Willow. We were interested to see how differently she reacted. At the front of the boat it is so quiet and there’s hardly any vibration, so she seemed quite relaxed. I took her outside and on seeing the water all around she was more nervous.

We arrived at the GOBAs and moored alongside Light Enough To Travel. The BBQ was already lit and soon we were tucking into some delicious kebabs, sausages, bread and melted brie, fresh local asparagus, all washed down with Pimms and mojitos. Yum! After a while sitting outside, the clouds drew in and it began to rain, but Pippin was spacious enough to carry on the celebrations inside.

Later on, we decided to head back into town. Chris from Light Enough wanted to have a go steering Willow, so James and Chris took Willow, while Simone and I took Light Enough. I definitely got the best deal here – it was still raining, but Light Enough has a  pram hood at the stern, so we stayed quite dry all the way into town!

2013-05-12 11.48.20 2013-05-12 11.50.03 2013-05-12 12.28.42 2013-05-12 12.28.53 2013-05-12 13.42.56 2013-05-12 14.05.51 2013-05-12 14.06.06 2013-05-12 17.05.52

Categories: Lyra, Travels | Leave a comment

Moving Home

The last couple of days has been quite hectic- we’ve been moving all of our possessions off the Duck ready for the new owner, and putting most of them in the garage. It is quite amazing just how much STUFF we had managed to fit on what now seems like a small boat!

Most of the garage moving was done using one of cycle courier company Outspoken’s freight bikes. Not only can these carry lots of boxes at a time, they are quick and they can get on to the Common, where a car couldn’t. Everything else was transferred directly to Willow by lining up the side hatches.


The Duck is now tied up, empty, on the visitor moorings.

Throughout all this Lyra has been noticeably confused and not a little distressed. Her territory is the Duck, but that has been increasingly inhospitable to her, with food, water and litter now on Willow. But she kept going back. in fact, she was the last thing to be passed through the side hatch before we moved the Duck. But now it is over and things have settled down, she seems much happier. In fact, she’s curled up, purring, on my lap right now!


Categories: Daily Life, Lyra | 2 Comments

Voyage Home Day 10: Waterbeach to Cambridge

Start 8:30am, finish 10:30am
River Cam
6 miles, 1 lock

Well, that’s it for our big voyage – we are home! Willow is now moored in the Duck’s old spot, and the Duck is behind our neighbours’s boat.

It was a short but momentous journey this morning, as we arrived into town in the drizzle. We moored up alongside the Duck and went to say hello to our neighbours on Light Enough to Travel. With the boats alongside each other, it’s amazing to see the contrast between our old boat and the new one!


We have made a start on transferring things across, but much of the Duck’s contents will have to go to the garage for now. We have a few days grace from the council regarding having two boats onthe mooring but early next week the Duck’s new owner will take her on and begin moving her about.

Of course the most important thing that needed transferring was our Lyra- we’ve really missed her, and although we know she’s been we’ll looked after, it is nice to have her back. She’s really settled in to Willow, having explored literally every nook and cranny including the bilges!



In the afternoon, we had lots of visitors coming to see our new home. It’s good to be back, but we have a lot to do!

Categories: Lyra, Travels | Tags: | 7 Comments

Voyage Home Day 9: Salter’s Lode to Waterbeach

6:30am- 6pm- with a 90 minute wait at Denver and a two hour stop in Ely.

Well Creek, Tidal Ouse, Great Ouse, River Cam

26 miles, 3 locks

We were up early today to catch the tide. After discussing tactics with Paul the lock keeper, we went into the lock.

Because Willow is longer than 63 feet, the normal lock gates to lock boats up to the high tide level could not be used. Instead, a small, low set of gates were closed behind the boat, and we locked down one foot from the Well Creek level to the slack water at low tide.

Once out we paused alongside the tyre wall for the tide to turn and start flowing inwards. Although there isn’t a big aegir or bore like on the Severn, when the tide arrives it does bring a surge.

Dead on time at 6:54, we saw a pulse of water heading up the river and Willow went rapidly backwards towards the gate, then rapidly forwards, as the surge carried us around. I was able to use the engine to slow us down, but even using lots of power couldn’t keep the boat quite still against the tide. It didn’t matter though; after a couple of smaller secondary surges, we were able to head to Denver sluice. The river had changed almost miraculously from dead flat calm to a visible faster-than-walking-pace flow inland within a minute. We were able to edge the fore end out into the stream slowly, and pirouetted around until we were facing towards Denver.

2013-04-11 06.48.53 2013-04-11 06.53.09 2013-04-11 07.01.04 2013-04-11 07.07.03 2013-04-11 07.08.31 2013-04-11 08.31.54

As we went up the tidal river, we saw the large digger outside Denver start to dredge. We knew from Paul that the floating pontoons were not in place, and had been doubled up in front of the lock entrance with the silt pusher boat moored to them. There was no place to easily stop, so we ended up having the fore end moored onto the very end of one of the pontoons, and the back moored loosely to one of the vertical posts that the pontoons were normally moored to. Luckily because the tide was coming in we didn’t have to worry about touching the bottom and going aground, if we had we would have just floated off a few minutes later when the tide came in more. Much less stressful than on a falling tide!

Once we were safely moored, they started digging again, plunging the digger arm into the river about ten feet behind Willow’s stern which was very disconcerting!

We had a long wait for the lock keeper. He was due, according to the board, at 8:00am, and so we waited, having tea and bacon sandwiches whilst waiting. In the end, he didn’t come down until 8:40, because there had been a communication problem between them and Paul at Salters Lode and they weren’t expecting us until later. We only just made it under the bridge across the lock chamber, had they waited another 20 minutes the tide would have been too high and I suppose we would have had to wait outside the lock until it dropped.

Undeterred we locked through and set off towards Ely through the grey skies and light drizzle. Amy had to set up the laptop and catch up on work inside, but I steered on fortified by occasional cups of tea and planning in my head the next steps of fitting out Willow.

We arrived at Ely at 11:30 and emptied e cassettes and filled the water tank before moving down the town quay to find a mooring. We managed to hang off the end of a nice mooring with the back sitting alongside a tall wall, exactly the same place we have moored Lucky Duck on previous occasions.

Once safely moored we headed for Waterside Antiques. There were a few items we were considering purchasing, including a lovely brass bilge pump- first spotted in 2007- which we resisted buying for today. We did however come away with a shunter’s pole, not because i fancy shunting some loose coupled goods wagons on the railway but as a device to clear the propellor. As Willow doesn’t have a weedhatch, you have to poke and prod from the side with the cabin shaft (boat hook) but shunter’s poles, which have a spiked corkscrew end, are excellent at removing weed and fabric, because you can twist the corkscrew end into it and pull it off easily. We also popped into the chandlery and got some small diameter stove rope to redo the joint at the top of the flue to the collar which is dribbling tar- a job to do when it’s warm enough to let the fire go out!

We bumped into our friend Mark, AKA The Engineer, on a cruise on his new boat, WB Norwegian Blue (“This is an EX PARROT!” Etc.) and were joined by our friend Richenda for the journey to Waterbeach.

The weather stayed grey and there were occasional drops of rain, but it wasn’t too bad and we made swift progress. Bottisham Lock was against us as a Bridge Boats hire cruiser was locking up in front of us, but we reset the lock and went in. There was a slight hitch when the hydraulic pump that powers the gates and slackers (East Anglian term for paddles) refused to work and lower the slackers down again. After a few minutes of poking and prodding, moving the guillotine gate, and generally faffing with the panel the hydraulics decided to work again and we locked through.

We moored at the 48s at Clayhithe and went to The Bridge pub for dinner. Just as we were finishing our pudding we were joined by Big John and a work colleague, and a very convivial time was had, culminating in a tour of the boat. Plans were also made for a possible gathering in Sunday if the forecast good weather turns up, which would be very welcome.

Tomorrow we’ll head into Cambridge in the morning, and then start organising Lyra and our worldly goods so we can move off of Lucky Duck.

Categories: Lyra, Travels | Tags: | 1 Comment

Plan A

2013-02-24 16.28.49

Langley Mill, at the junction of the Cromford and Erewash canals where our journey with Willow will begin


Several people have asked us what our plans are now that we own two boats and only one of them is currently in a  state to live on. So this is Plan A:

We can’t move Willow back to Cambridge from Langley Mill until the Easter holidays. Luckily the mooring is paid up until the end of March so that is fine. So, until then, we will be spending as many weekends as we can up there. It won’t be both of us, or every weekend but we will try to get on with the basics of installing the systems (water, electricity etc) and fitting the kitchen before we set off.

In the meantime we can continue to live on the Duck, because our buyer is not ready to take it on until the end of April.

CanalPlanAC reckons about 10 days to get from LM to Cambridge, so we should easily be able to bring it back (Erewash – Soar – GU Leicester Section – GU – Nene – Middle Level – Ouse) over the two week holiday, and once we arrive, moor up next to the Duck and transfer our possessions over. Lyra will come with us for the journey and we will have friends looking after the Duck whilst we are away.

When our mooring and river licences come up we’ll put them both in Willow’s name. Depending on when our buyer wants to take on the Duck, we’ll either hand it over to him or find a temporary non-residential mooring for it in one of the marinas in the Fens.

It is of course subject to alteration if there is flooding or stoppages or…


Categories: Lyra | 4 Comments

Create a free website or blog at